Two weeks ago, Hyperallergic reported that artist Banu Cennetoğlu’s list of 34,000 refugees, who had perished within or on the borders of Europe, was mysteriously removed from the Liverpool Biennial. After the list was repeatedly vandalized and destroyed, the artist has decided to leave the 900-foot-long project installed on Great George Street in its tattered condition: a brutal symbol of bigotry and violence in a country already facing scrutiny for its immigration policies and Brexit rhetoric.
“Due to repeated damage and removal since The List was installed, Banu Cennetoğlu and Liverpool Biennial have decided to leave it in its current state as a manifestation and reminder of systematic violence exercised against people,” the arts festival announced on Twitter yesterday. Before coming to their decision, The List had been torn down twice before — most recently on Sunday.
In a lengthier press release, cosigned by the artist and UNITED for Intercultural Action which has produced “The List” since 1993, the Liverpool Biennial notes that the project has never been defaced in previous public presentations. Those include on billboards, transport networks, and newspapers in cities such as Berlin, Istanbul, Basel, Athens.
A Liverpool City Council spokesperson also expressed deep regret for the shameful act of vandalism. “We have fully supported Liverpool Biennial for the past 20 years and stand shoulder to shoulder with them in expressing surprise and disgust at such a rare occurrence in the city. We will be working with them to try and turn this action into a positive and shine a light on how we need to do more to promote a tolerant and compassionate society.”
Reactions from commenters on Twitter were overwhelmingly supportive of the arts festival’s decision to showcase the wrecked list.
I walked the length of this artwork today. The artist made the correct decision in not replacing the damaged and defaced panels. If anything, the piece is now even more powerful.
— La bohème (@la_bohemeact2) August 16, 2018
Still, some users wanted a more serious investigation into who exactly was destroying “The List.” As previously reported, the Liverpool Biennial did say that they would review nearby CCTV footage to help identify the possible assailants. They have not since released a comment on the video feed.
I feel this should be investigated by the police as surely someone with such sentiments is a potential greater danger to society. Perhaps the rest of us could print of ‘the list’ and display ourselves in a way safe to do so?
— Elizabeth Shuck (@elizabethshuck) August 16, 2018
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.